Atuarfik Hans Lynge School, Greenland

The school plays a key role in the new urban area of Qinngorput, near Nuuk. It succeeds in simultaneously adapting to the demanding climate and standing proud as a landmark and point of reference for the area.

Atuarfik Hans Lynge School
Photo: KHR Architects A/S and BASCON A/S

When you enter the newly built section of town, your attention is unerringly drawn to an eye-catching school building, which still stands as a solitary element in the landscape. It quite beautifully emerges from the bold lines of the countryside while simultaneously standing in stark contrast to the cliffs behind it. From an architectural perspective, the building captures the sheer scale of the landscape through its tall entrance section, while the strips of windows running through the building with dashes of colour highlight the human element. Inside, the school opens up to reveal an exciting progression of space, which is graded in openness and outlook. One of the many strengths of the building is attributable to the use of few materials and a limited colour scheme. Concrete, laminated wood and Troldtekt panels are used consistently, each in its own way contributing a sense of friendliness and an elevate degree of texture.

Tough conditions
KHR arkitekter A/S, the company that designed the new school, can draw on plenty of experience from other construction projects on Greenland, including the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources and the University Park in Nuuk, which are also positioned in open landscape. Atuarfik Hans Lynge Skole, which was completed in 2011, is an excellent example of how the external conditions shape the building. KHR has designed the school so that the prevailing winds sweep over the roof and so that snow and meltwater are diverted away from the building. The school also features large overhangs that protect the building. Despite the demanding climate, the architects have succeeded beautifully in imbuing the building with gravitas as the heart of the local area. Over and above providing a setting for teaching the children from the city, the building functions as a culture centre and much more besides. It is here that culture meets the omnipresent nature.

Accommodating surfaces
Experience from KHR's previous construction projects on Greenland showed that pine panels work very well and develop an attractive patina in the cold climate. The school is therefore clad in wooden panels, and the windows frames are also made of natural wood. Laminated wood has been used for the constructions in combination with concrete that was largely cast on site and exposed indoors. Troldtekt has been used as the ceiling material throughout the school Troldtekt's excellent properties help create space with pleasant acoustics in the classrooms, the sports hall and the hallways, where the double-height space challenges the acoustic absorption properties of the surfaces. Beautiful treatment of the ceilings, particularly around the open voids, testifies to the architects' sense for detail. The soft and accommodating surfaces are highlighted through precision and use of colours, both indoors and out. The clear red tones draw their inspiration from wild berries in the landscape. The floors are either made of fluid concrete or edge-on ash parquet with underfloor heating. Great emphasis has been placed on ensuring a good indoor climate, which also gels very neatly with the choice of natural materials. For example, Troldtekt is a sustainable material and has been certified according to the highest indoor climate categories.

Other local conditions
The Greenlandic climate and construction-related challenges were not the only obstacles the project had to overcome. Construction of the school also had to accommodate Greenlandic teaching traditions, which HKR took very seriously. KHR has extensive experience in building teaching facilities, and this was clearly illustrated here in the firm's skill in finding the balance between the teaching situation and the substantial spatial flow. The shared areas and the openness in particular play a key role in the context of pedagogical principles, where niches and shelters provide opportunities to take a step back. The internal windows provide a comforting sense of proximity, and constitute another of the school's accommodating features.

Atuarfik Hans Lynge Skole has a magnificent dynamic in its design idiom, both indoors and out. The perception of continuity and cohesion is strong, and the contrasts between the red elements and the other fine details imbue the building with architectural riches.